A Gap Year in Malaysia

Why go backpacking in Malaysia?

Malaysia has earned its place as one of the most popular gap year and backpacker destinations in South East Asia. It’s home to brilliant beaches, unspoilt rainforests, a ludicrous amount of wildlife, and bustling cities packed with cultural attractions. Seriously, you want to spend some of your gap year in Malaysia.

In a way there are two Malaysias – one on a peninsula of the Asian mainland and one more than 600 miles away across the South China Sea on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is an exotic melting pot, with indigenous Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences mixed together in a country that is part shiny modern and industrial and part developing nation.

Things to do in Malaysia

Check out our current top picks


Orangutan Conservation in Malaysia

from £1,999.00

28 days

Care for orangutangs in the lush surroundings of Malaysia. Learn about animal protection and work closely with these spectacular creatures...

China to Singapore Group Tour

from £2,375.00

73 days

Travel like a local and experience the wonders of South East Asia, from the hustel and bustle of its chaotic...

Animal Care Internship in Malaysia

from £1,114.00

14 - 28 days

Learn the life of a zookeeper on our amazing animal care internship in Malaysia. Work with over 1000 animals of...

The Ultimate Bucket List

from £11,999.00

170 days

Okay, deep breath. This is the gap year to end all gap years. It covers EVERYTHING. Imagine the stories, imagine...

Animal Care at a Wildlife Park

from £2,595.00

28 days

Care for animals in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Borneo's newest attraction and home to many of Sabah's native and threatened...

The Great Orangutan Project

from £1,280.00

14 - 28 days

Volunteer at the award-winning Orangutan Volunteer Centre in beautiful Borneo and help protect these increasingly rare, beautiful animals.

Volunteer with Bears in Borneo

from £1,099.00

14 - 28 days

Volunteer with the smallest (and cutest!) of bears at this inspiring sun bear rehabilitation centre in Borneo. Immerse yourself in...

Jungle Trekking and Sea Turtle Conservation in the Perhentian Islands

from £1,120.00

21 - 56 days

Volunteer for jungle conservation in your first week in mainland Malaysia before venturing to the Perhentian Islands for two weeks...

Borneo Wildlife Conservation

from £1,145.00

12 days

Help on an inspiring mission to regenerate the rainforests in Borneo, and see pygmy elephants, orangutans and a huge range...

Borneo and the Philippines

from £2,488.00

42 - 70 days

A dynamic program which includes venturing deep into the jungle to teach indigenous tribes, exploring Mulu caves, an orangutan safari,...

Latest advice and inspiration for Malaysia

Check out what our writers have been up to in Malaysia


The cities

Phwoar, Kuala Lumpur. Few cities balance futuristic splendour and majesterial history like Malaysia’s capital. The skyline is dominated by the spectacular Petronas Towers, and puncutated by minarets, huge shopping malls, and clubs and bars that seem to never shut. In between there’s sprawling markets, delicious street food stalls, and beautiful parks. Kuala Lumpur encompasses everything travellers love about South East Asia.

Elsewhere there’s Kuching on Borneo, a sophisticated city full of Chinese temples and Indian mosques, all of it close to incredible wildlife, and the lesser known Johor Bahru that’s quickly making a name for itself with its pounding nightlife. There are plenty of options when backpacking in Malaysia.

The scenery

Bloody hell, Borneo. The largest island in Asia is covered in rainforest that houses the endangered Bornean orangutan, one of the most incredible wildlife sights in the world. There are also Asian elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Bornean clouded leopard, not to mention incredible views and landscapes like Mount Kinabalu.

You can also visit the Cameron Highlands, a temperate range of blue peaks, tea plantations, and roaring waterfalls. It’s the perfect place to escape the heat and trek across dreamy scenery. If you’re in the mood to relax you can head to Pulau Pangkor (‘Beautiful Island’), a quiet former pirate hideout covered in jungle still largely untouched by foreign tourists.

A lot of backpackers do volunteering in Malaysia to have the opportunity to work with animals like the orangutan, and see the incredible scenery while also helping to preserve it.

Malaysia is a great place to travel. It’s got all the amenities you could want, and most things work. But it’s still a lot cheaper than Singapore and there’s enough fascinating traditional culture and wilderness left to keep anyone happy. All-in-all, it’s a amazing gap year destination, so get your planning hat on!

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